Today we’d like to introduce you to Jo-e Sutton.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Jo-e. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My family owned a modern day, more realistic version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. It was a bakery in the San Fernando Valley, called Weby’s on Ventura Blvd. The smells of white flour baking with white sugar, chocolate and butter smelled like heaven to me, and that is where my family members kept ending up, all too soon. As a child, chocolate chips were in my cream of wheat, bagels and bread. My brother had intestinal issues, I had a lot of stomachaches and body pains, my sister couldn’t digest her food, my grandfather died of heart disease and the complications of diabetes, and he couldn’t even eat his own food. My uncle died at the age of 39, heart failure.
My pain, my family’s early diseases and deaths and then my subsequent diseases, ulcerative colitis, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, hypoglycemia, adrenal fatigue, arthritis and three subsequent surgeries were all impetus for my interest and study in food as medicine. Early on, I had the thought that maybe, just maybe, what we were all eating, may have something to do with the seemingly bad luck we had with the health in our families.
When I went to the doctors with my extensive stomach pains, they looked at me with x-ray vision and diagnosed me as a hypochondriac. Not only was I not treated, but also, I was laughed at. That hurt. Emotional pain can be more debilitating than physical pain and they certainly exacerbate each other. When I started bleeding from my intestines, they had a name for it, ulcerative colitis, then it was something, I was upgraded from hypochondriac to having a medical condition. They said however that it was incurable and I would be on medication for the rest of my life. That didn’t seem right to me. If I was having symptoms that they couldn’t see and therefor couldn’t do anything about, then they could see them, but said it was incurable, where was the missing link?
A friend of mine, Dr. Neal Miller, an acupuncturist who works in the valley at China Valley Herbs, introduced me to his teachers at Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine. It was the first time in my life that all of my symptoms were heard, and even though it all seemed random to me, it made sense to them. Each symptom painted a picture of excesses and deficiencies that not only were well understood by this over 5000-year-old medicine, but they had treatments for all of it. I was astounded. I thought I found the Holy Grail and finally, I would get well. Not only did I go for treatment at Emperor’s by student interns who were overseen by professors, I then enrolled to become an acupuncturist myself.
After a few years of school and hundreds of appointments, needles, herbs and dietary changes, I noticed that I was not getting well as soon as I had hoped. I started to feel disappointed and looked at the trauma from my past that I had concluded was my fault. I thought that the pain and dysfunction around me was because of me and that somehow, I was flawed, not good enough, not worthy and unlovable. It seemed to me that perhaps my negative mental state caused more physiological damage than all the needles and herbs could cure. So, I ended up leaving Oriental Medical School to study what I called, higher medicine; the mind/body connection.
For years I went to therapies, healers, seminars, read books, meditated, practiced tai chi, tried to feed myself from all the different dietary theories I studied to learn my own body. I flew to New York once a month for a year to attend The Institute For Integrative Nutrition. I had been a hairdresser for 30 years and my body was breaking down with excruciating arm and neck pain that would not quit. My inner guidance wanted me to be back in the healing profession, but I felt like a fraud, if I couldn’t heal myself.
I heard Ishmael Tete, an African spiritual leader once says, “Wherever you suffer, that is where your genius grows.” So, I thought, I must hone my genius. After all, I was passionate about it, for my own healing and survival as well as out of my desire to help reduce the invalidation and suffering of others, as I had experienced myself. So, I went… I started a raw, organic blended green drink delivery business as I went to school, I started seeing clients and I was not at all ready or able to financially support myself yet for a career change, but the universe had different plans for me. One day, in the middle of a haircut, it felt as though my left arm had lit on fire. It hadn’t but I cried through that last haircut that I ever created at the salon. My client and friend, a surgery room nurse, Nancy Bennett, got me in to see a neurosurgeon that day. To make a very long story short, I had a spinal block injection that did nothing. I was in surgery within a week. Spinal stenosis was like calcium deposits that had filled the holes where my nerve bundles were trying to exit, they had to scrape them off the nerves themselves. 3 months later, 3 of my discs ruptured. Back to surgery, this time cut from the front of the neck, my surgeon built a ship in a bottle as he called it. He fused my cervical spine with a titanium plate and 8 screws. After spending another 3 months rehabilitating in the water, I tore the cartilage away from my right shoulder and had my 3rd surgery in 1 1/2 years. Then I got shingles.
I had a good attitude for most of it. I lost my job, my profession, my income, and my independence. I couldn’t do my own hair, open a jar, pull up my own pants; I had no leverage, no money and hardly any income. I typed with one nerve damaged hand and built a website, I did data entry for a friend and I prayed hard. I had been on the healing road a long time by now, so I was no stranger to learning to be grateful inside the process and I always knew that no matter how bad it was, it could always be worse. My sister always says, “It doesn’t matter what happens to you, it’s how you handle it that matters.” I thought I was handling it pretty well, and then I got shingles.
I felt knocked down and knocked out in the boxing ring of life. My relationships were being taxed, my son was graduating from high school and going off to college, I was broke and being forced to learn to receive help. One of my best friends since I was 8 said to me, “Giving is the greatest gift in the world. You are a generous giver. If you don’t allow others to give to you, then you are depriving them of the greatest gift in the world.” This knocked my socks off and soothed my co-dependent little heart. I decided to be the most gracious receiver and really let people know how moved and thankful I was. No more pretending I didn’t have needs, no more of playing that game of, “no, no, you really shouldn’t have.” I just learned to say “thank you so much,” and mean it.
If it hadn’t been for selling my car, my jewelry, my family heirlooms, China, artwork and anything of value around me, I don’t know what would have happened to me. My sister started a fundraiser and people are amazing… I still had a home and I still do. I learned to plan lots of buffer time around taking the bus to my rehab and errands when I could move around and I had a roof over my head and a family that loved me and did all they could to help.
I had healed myself of endometriosis, ulcerative colitis; I have gone in and out of fibromyalgia depending upon pain, weather and emotional circumstances. But as a holistic health counselor, I know that all parts of my life are what drive my wellbeing, not just food and exercise, but my mental state, my relationships, my connection to nature or spirit, sleep and more.
My relationships struggled. The shadows of my dysfunctional upbringing haunted me inside and in my relationships. I felt like I could never be as well as I was capable of, until I healed the nagging defensiveness and withdrawal and attack that ensued when someone witnessed, saw and pointed at my shortcomings, my flaws, my humanity. I over reacted, I caused fear in the people around me and I felt insecure and guilty.
One day, as my relationship was on the rocks, again… I sat down to meditate, I begged my higher power, God, whatever you want to call it, to please help me see what I was unable to see and heal up until now. With tears running down my face, I simply prayed, please help me see, please help me heal!!! Behind my eyes, I saw a vision of this inner part of myself; I’ll call her the tweaker for now. She was dressed in tattered leather boots and vest, jeans and disheveled hair. She held a sword. She was the one who reacted and yelled and raged. She was the one who would get defensive and cold and hide or threaten to leave people. She was the part of me who fought with people when they pointed out my flaws. I hated this part of myself. Yet, there she was, behind my eyes, standing there like a young version of me. I felt different immediately.
This is what she said to me.
“YOU’RE ARE SO AFRAID THAT IF ANYONE KNOWS I EXIST, THEY WILL HATE YOU. YOU ARE SO AFRAID IF ANYONE KNOWS I EXIST, THEY WILL REJECT YOU. YOU ARE SO AFRAID IF ANYONE KNOWS I EXIST THEY WILL LEAVE YOU AND YOU WILL NEVER BE LOVED.
BUT YOU HATE ME, YOU REJECT ME, YOU LEAVE ME AND YOU DON’T LOVE ME.
UNTIL YOU LEARN TO LOVE ME, IT WON’T MATTER HOW MANY PEOPLE LOVE YOU, WILL NEVER TAKE IT IN OR FEEL LIKE YOU DESERVE IT.”
I was floored. Tears soaked my jeans and my world changed in that one minute. I got it. I realized that I had tried to be perfect to be safe when I was little. But I was a person, and I had needs and feelings and fears and anger and didn’t feel that they were not allowed to exist without me being afraid for myself. So, eventually, some part of me would fight for my life, and she was one aspect of me that tried to protect me. She was young when she was formed. She did the best she could to create tools of protection to help me survive. I realized she was not my enemy to be ashamed of; she had been my best friend and had fought for me, even when I hated and rejected her.
I enacted a little ceremony in my head. I apologized to her with all my might. I told her that I realized that I needed to protect her now, and that I had not done a good job of self-care so she had to yell and threaten, to get what she needed, what we needed. I asked her if she would forgive me. She nodded. I apologized for calling her a tweaker, and asked her if she would stay with me as my trusted informant. I told her that I would listen to her and make sure that WE were taken care of. That I would honor us and she could lay down her sword of anger, defensiveness, and rage and be loved. We embraced.
This was 3 years ago. I have not been the same ever since. My relationships are flourishing, my self-care has increased, my strength is returning, I feel like a miracle.
The name of my business was formed from this concept. LOVE YOUR WAY TO HEALTH. It requires a true desire and a sense of forgiveness for one’s humanity, flaws, and mistakes to open the life to healing. I believe that all of us carry around this painful feeling that we are too flawed to be loved and lovable. Yet, it is through self-love, that we can truly love others in all their imperfections and we can truly accept love, because it began by giving it first to ourselves.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Love Your Way To Health story. Tell us more about the business.
My company is called LOVE YOUR WAY TO HEALTH! I specialize in digestive disorders, reflux disease, blood sugar imbalances, weight management, auto immune diseases, lowering cholesterol naturally, lowering blood pressure, relieving constipation, teaching people how to navigate our modern day food supply, safely and more. I’ve had clients with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, reflux, asthma, allergies and more.
I specialize in a principle I call, Leveling-Up. I believe that real change is not sustainable if we try to take on too much at once. Small, incremental changes are ones that can gently become a part of our lifestyle when we give our self a chance to add it bit by bit to our routines. Many people can get gung-ho and excited about some new diet, or working out or doing some project that they have been wanting to do, then after a couple of weeks, the motivation goes away and so does the behavior. This is so common that people give up entirely.
I think we need to change thoughts and behaviors in small increments, like a ship that makes the tiniest change in direction. Over time those small degrees land us in an entirely different destination. Most people have the “I’m not doing enough” disease. This is the one that I deal with the most. The feeling that people feel not good enough drives them to do more, in order to be good enough. This is what Einstein says is futile. We cannot fix the problem at the level of the problem. What if our conclusion that we are not good enough has been wrong all along, and because we believe it, our solution is also wrong? Just because everyone said the world is flat, didn’t mean that ships would fall off the edge into a sea of fiery dragons. So, we avoid the horizon line and believe we are the only world? No, this was a false conclusion and it takes hundreds of years for paradigm shifts in mass thinking to finally peter out and accept a new truth. The world is round. Now, I hear it is oval. In any case, you get the idea.
The answer isn’t to do more and work harder and exhaust ourselves to prove we are good enough. The answer may be to challenge the belief to begin with and then come up with a different action plan. This is what I do.
This, I believe is what I specialize in. This is what I am most proud of, because, people leave their sessions with me with relief. They are relieved because they find out that they aren’t broken and insufficient and unlovable and unforgivable. They leave with the power to think differently. Our thoughts give us our feelings and our behaviors. So, if we don’t like our feelings and behaviors, we need to trace them to the origin, to our thoughts. The same is true for our health.
This is my version of W-HOLISTIC healing. The whole life gets looked at, and then we love our way to health!
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I am editing a book right now about LOVNG YOUR WAY TO HEALTH. It’s a book about how to navigate the modern day food supply, it’s about self-care, leveling-up, it’s educational about what happened to our food and how to find healthy food. It contains over a hundred recipes and it extols the virtues of what the founder of my school, Joshua Rosenthal calls, bio-individuality. It is the idea that no one body eats or needs the same as another body. So, instead of pushing another dietary theory, it extols the virtues of eating high quality whole food that is as close to the way nature gave it to us, before industrialization. Now, we are far from natural beings anymore, so there are many reasons people cannot handle natural food, believe it or not, but I talk about that in my book as well.
I just joined the Wellness and Performance Division at Physical Therapyworks in Santa Monica. The owner John Dravillas helped me through one of my shoulder injuries, all the way to wellness, (I went kayaking recently, and I haven’t been able to use my body like that for almost 7 years now.) So, needless to say, not only was he the best physical therapist I’ve ever had, I truly love his mission and values.
We wanted to continue explore our values for healing and wellness together, so, I joined his team. I gave a free holistic health lecture there as a community service, and we are planning more events. I am launching a series of classes on holistic health starting in October. It is based upon a curriculum that I wrote and taught at S.M.A.S.H. Charter middle school when my son was attending there. He told me that kids didn’t know how to eat, and would I teach them, so I did.
I’ve taught it in numerous places and to many different ages at this point. I taught this curriculum with my friend Anita Green at the Whole Foods in Pasadena as a community service project as well. I think when the book comes out, there will be more talks, lectures and education to be spread around.
Perhaps in the future, I will create a longer curriculum and it will be standard in schools. That is a dream of mine.
- Individual Health Counseling $150 per session
- 6 session package- $140 per session
- 12 session package- $135 per session
- 24 session package- $130 per session
- Address: 719 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90403
- Website: https://www.loveyourwaytohealth.com
- Phone: 310 488-4881
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jo_esutton/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JoSuttonHolisticHealthCoaching/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/jo_esutton
- Yelp: https://www.yelp.com/biz/jo-e-sutton-santa-monica